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Spokane

NICHOLAS CASSLEMAN

NICHOLAS CASSLEMAN

My roommate is gone for the weekend so
she left me her penknife, the one she usually wears on a gold-colored chain
around her neck.
She won’t need it where she’s going,
which is to her aunt’s goat farm in Washington,

where I can imagine the bucolic clouds of fluff and red meat
tumbling over those wooly mountains of Spokane.
(How much moss does a rolling goat gather?)

The roommate says,
baby goats are tottering along and butting their heads and
probably filling out 401(k)s just twenty-four hours after birth.
What were you doing twenty-four hours after you were born?

Not much.

My parents gave me a penknife when I was six years old
(what were they thinking?)
At any rate, I never gave myself or anyone else
any serious injuries. Cross my heart.
I lost the thing, in fact.

We had a game called “O’Grady’s Goat” at home.
It’s got eighty-nine strips of paper and you’re supposed to match them all up or something
but we never could learn how because it was printed in 1895 in Springfield, Mass.
and all the pages crumble to bits when you pick them up.

Which may be the problem with history, come to think of it.
(the crumbliness, I mean)
so that all you can really do with the wars and marches and last Sunday’s leftovers
is to feed it all
into a great pot of foliage and glue
and churn it out again in columns of chicken scratch.
The children wash it down with their milk.

Does the rule about guns and plays apply to knives and poems, too?
Anyway,
you can’t make history out of little bits of brown paper,
and you can’t make a wool coat out of them either.
I hope my roommate knows that,
and that it’s not too cold out there in the Northwest corner,
so she doesn’t need her penknife for shearing.

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